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2022 Annual Report

Our 2022 Annual General Meeting of the North West Highlands Geopark took place last Thursday 27th October. We were very pleased to welcome a fantastic turn out from our Friends and Members! Thank you to everyone who attended and special thanks to Highland Stoneware for a fascinating presentation on their geological glazes project (you can find out more about the geological glazes on their website here).

If you missed the AGM, why not have a read through our Annual Report? It’s been a transformational year for the Geopark – find out what we’ve been up to, and our plans going forward, here.

Please share our Annual Report far and wide, with your friends and family! We’d also love to hear your feedback.

If you’d like to keep up to date with our news and events throughout the year, you can subscribe to our mailing list and receive our quarterly newsletter. Join our mailing list here. Our latest issue is: 2022 Issue 3 – Autumn 

 

Cover photo: Triaxial blend glazes made with Gneiss and Limestone, by Highland Stoneware.

AGM 2022

Notice is hereby given that the 2022 Annual General Meeting of the North West Highlands Geopark will take place on:

Thursday 27th October @ 7:00pm

The meeting will be held virtually via Zoom video conference.

Come and join us to hear an update on our work! All are welcome to attend, although only registered Members Of the Geopark will have the ability to vote on proposed resolutions. Find out more about becoming a Member of the Geopark.

In addition to the AGM Meeting there will be a talk hosted by Highland Stoneware (David Grant and Josh Wilson) on their geological glaze project. David explains:

At Highland Stoneware, we fire our kiln up to 1300 centigrade, which enables us to melt many of the fabulous rocks in our area, which we have all grown to love. The process is akin to remetamorphosing the materials. I originally worked on this while a Post Graduate Student at the Royal College of Art in London in the early 1970s, and in Lochinver in the fledgling days of Highland Stoneware.
We resumed working on it in 2014, and have been delighted and encouraged by the huge interest in the results from our customers, geologists, ceramic academics, and vitally, our employees. Their Creative use of the new glazes has been astonishing, as I hope to illustrate. We invite everyone to have a look at our website as there is more information there.

This is what we call a triaxial blend, and this one is where we have focussed much of our work. The glaze at the top is a Gneiss from the Morefield Quarry in Ullapool. The bottom left is the Limestone from the same Quarry. The bottom right is the Heddle Quarry in Orkney. All the others are proportions of these elements in a grid.

This Triaxial is the basis of what has recently been accepted by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, together with Vases in selected glazes designed by a founding HS Director David, Marquess of Queensberry. Highland Stoneware was recently filmed by Channel 4 with strong focus on the Geological Glazes, and is scheduled to be shown in Spring. We were delighted last year to win a Highly Commended award for a Geological Glaze design by the prestigious Mino International Ceramics competition in Japan. This was developed by Riona in Ullapool.”

Find out more about Geological Glazes – Made From Scotland.

 

Do you live in the North West Highlands Geopark? Or have a strong connection to the area? Become a Member of the Geopark!

Membership is free and will allow you to vote at the AGM, nominate and elect people to serve as directors, or even serve yourself if this is where your interests lie.

Membership is open to anyone who lives within the Geopark’s boundaries and is over 16 and on the electoral roll. If you do not live within the Geopark but have a strong connection or interest in the area, you can still apply and tell us why you’d like to become a member. The directors will consider each application for membership.

The North West Highlands Geopark Ltd is a Charity and all Charities need sound governance. Our Charity particularly needs the support and interest of the communities it serves. So if you believe in the value of the Geopark, then please come and stand with us as a member. As a member you will be showing potential funders that you value the Geopark and the work of the Charity.

Should you wish to become a Member of The Geopark and participate in this AGM you can register using the link below.

Register to become a Member Of The Geopark

 

Photo credit: (banner) Airborne Lens and VisitScotland, (geological glazes) Highland Stoneware

Three-year funding success for the North West Highlands Geopark

A three-year programme of activities to inspire and help people to Access, Connect and Take part in the heritage of the North West Highlands Geopark is set to go ahead after securing £234,405 in funding.

Community led charity North West Highlands Geopark Ltd has announced the two funding awards to support their ACT Geopark project. The organisation has secured £174,243 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. They have also been awarded £61,162 from the SSE Renewables Sustainable Development Fund. The grants will support an exciting heritage programme, ACT Geopark, in West Sutherland and northern Wester Ross. The programme will give more people the opportunity to connect with the landscape through art, storytelling, and citizen science. Beginning in July 2022, the programme will run for three years until Summer 2025.

The full range of activities can now take place thanks also to support committed earlier by the Highland Coastal Communities Fund, The National Lottery Community Fund ‘Together for Our Planet’, EB Scotland, and Foundation Scotland through The David Doig and The Essentia Foundations. In total, these organisations, have committed more than £315,000 between them.

Activities will begin with the recruitment of a full time Education and Engagement Officer for three years, funded by the SSE Renewables Sustainable Development Fund grant, The National Lottery Community Fund and The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players. This will allow the Charity to work more closely with schools, supporting the curriculum and embedding local examples into history, art, geography, and science teaching.  It will also develop an out of school ‘Young Geologists Club’, engaging and upskilling young people in their world-class landscape.

Using the support committed by the Highland Coastal Communities Fund grant, the Geopark Charity will work with local people to share Marine Heritage stories and bring communities together that were traditionally connected by the sea. Following consultation over the past year, The Charity intends these activities to be primarily for local people, and not with a strong tourism focus. Instead concentrating on enhancing wellbeing and health benefits.

The Charity will also develop a Pilgrim’s Trail, Sense of Place toolkits, Artist-in-Residencies, and community path development planning.  There will be many opportunities over the next three years for local people to join events, contribute knowledge and learn new skills.  The Artist-in-Residencies will bring a new perspective to landscape interpretation, combining with geoscientists and local people to express why the Geopark is a special place. In addition, there will be training opportunities for Geopark Ambassadors, staff and volunteers in marine heritage, place-names, and climate action planning.

Commenting on the award, Geopark Chair Dr Iain Young said: “We are thrilled to have received this support from all of our funders. This is a great vote of confidence in our plans which has only been made possible by all of the people who have supported the Geopark over many years.”

Geopark Manager, Dr Laura Hamlet said: “We are of course thrilled that the programme we’ve been developing together for quite a long time has attracted so much support from funders. It’s quite humbling in fact, and now comes the hard work in delivering it all, but I’m really looking forward to getting involved in Sense of Place events and seeing the Young Geologist’s Club get up and running!”

Caroline Clark, National Lottery Heritage Fund Director for Scotland, said: “ACT Geopark imaginatively brings together a programme that will engage both the local community and visitors in learning about, exploring, enjoying and protecting the heritage of this rugged yet fragile environment. The North West Highland Geopark is very much an initiative driven by local people and it is thanks to National Lottery players that we are able to support the communities’ ambitions for the place they live.”

Lindsay Dougan, Investment Manager and SSE Renewables, said: “SSE Renewables is delighted to support this excellent project which uses the local landscape to enhance young people’s STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths) attainment. This project will help young people have the skills and experience for the jobs of the future.”

Above; Geopark team members Iain Young (Chair), Jean MacKay (director), Natasha Hutchison (Lochbroom community director), Pete Harrison (Geopark Geologist), Chris McNeil (Voluntary IT manager), Jonathan Archer (Project officer), Ann Macleod (Coigach community director), and Laura Hamlet (Geopark Manager).

 

About the North West Highlands Geopark

North West Highlands Geopark Ltd is the Charity that manages UNESCO status for the North West Highlands. Directors and staff are rooted in the local community. They are a group of local people who are involved in the Charity because they care passionately about the area and want to see it thrive—economically, socially, culturally, and environmentally. The North West Highlands Geopark is one of only two UNESCO Global Geoparks in Scotland. The landscapes, underpinned by an incredible variety of rock types, hold the memory of the earth and the future of people.  The rocks tell us how the planet works and help us understand our place within it.

Its vision is for the North West Highlands to become a thriving and sustainable rural economy capitalising on the assets and people of the Geopark in partnership with local government, relevant agencies and local businesses.

It’s mission is: “To celebrate, conserve and promote our unique, internationally recognised geological heritage in a manner consistent with our status as a Scottish Registered Charity and UNESCO accreditation. We are visibly embedded in our communities, both local and international, and work alongside trusted partners who share our values and aspirations. In so doing, we aspire to use this heritage to help maintain economically sustainable communities, being ever mindful of climate change and wider societal issues.”

The Charity:

  • Manages UNESCO Global Geopark designation
  • Develops and delivers projects and programmes, usually with a range of partners
  • Has a focus on: geo-heritage conservation; promoting the area as a responsible tourism destination, with the emphasis on geoheritage; environmental education; and telling the story of the landscape and its people.
  • Builds networks locally, nationally and internationally to support heritage-led sustainable development in the North West Highlands

You can follow @nwhgeopark on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and use the hashtag #ACTGeopark

 

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund

Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43 billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK.

Photos: Visit Scotland/Airborne Lens

 

Call for Marine Heritage Researchers

The North West Highlands Geopark Ltd is embarking on an ambitious new project to interpret the Marine Heritage of the Geopark. This is both natural, and cultural. We are seeking researchers who would be interested in helping us gather the necessary stories, histories and information to develop the following outputs;
• A website, trail guide, learning packs, training programme and other supporting administrative and physical infrastructure.
• A special training programme for local communities and businesses, offering advice and instruction on how to make the most of the many natural and cultural assets accessible to visitors along the coast between Lochbroom and Kinlochbervie, and beyond to Durness, Tongue and Skerray.

We are looking to collect content from across the Geopark on marine heritage aspects that include:

  • Oral histories
  • Archival history
  • Folk lore/ legends
  • Archaeology
  • Ecology
  • Geology
  • Contemporary culture

(This is not an exhaustive list, and we would welcome creative suggestions).

For further information download the brief here: Marine Heritage Research Brief

Deadline for proposals: 9th September 2022

Photo credit: Tim Hamlet, as part of the Coigach & Assynt Sense of Place Toolkit.

We are hiring an Education & Engagement Officer!

We are looking for someone to fill the role of NWHG Education & Engagement Officer – to work with communities in the Geopark to engage them with the ACT Geopark program and climate action activities.

This is an important opportunity for an enthusiastic and hardworking individual to work closely with the Geopark Manager, Geopark Geologist, North West Sutherland schools, communities in the North West Highlands Geopark and visitors to involve them in the ACT Geopark (Access, Connect & Take-part in the Geopark) programme.

The ACT Geopark programme will deliver a suite of projects over a three-year period to help people access, connect with, and take part in UNESCO Global Geopark activities. The main outputs of the program will be educational enrichment for school age children, a young geologist’s club, a marine heritage ‘blue route’ and a pilgrim’s trail. Alongside these we will work with artists and makers to communicate the significance of the region’s geological heritage to a wider audience than ever before, helping communities and visitors to form deeper connections with their landscapes through arts and science communication.

Full job description and how to apply: NWHG Education & Engagement officer Application pack

Closing date for applications: 25th August 2022

Shortlist date: 7th September 2022

Interview date: 14th September 2022

For further information contact: laura@nwhgeopark.com

Discussion and questions are welcome before the closing date.

 

Photo credit: Visit Scotland, Airborne Lens

 

We are hiring!

The Rock Stop is hiring for the 2022 season!

Would you like to join the team at our cafe, shop and exhibition centre situated right in the heart of the Geopark? We’d love to hear from you! We are currently looking for a year-round manager and seasonal retail and catering team members to join the Rock Stop team.

For more information on the Rock Stop and our current job opportunities, please visit our Recruitment page:

Recruitment

 

AGM 2021

Notice is hereby given that the 2021 Annual General Meeting of the North West Highlands Geopark will take place on:

Saturday 23rd October @ 1:00-2:00pm

This meeting will be held virtually via Zoom conference. If you’d like to attend, please register in advance for further details on the meeting and the Zoom link. Register here.

All welcome to attend! Come and join us to hear an update on our work.

 


Do you live in the North West Highlands Geopark? Would you like to become a Member of the Geopark?

If you live in the Geopark (check here to find out) or have a strong connection to the area, you can apply to become a member. Membership is free and will allow you to vote at the AGM.

The North West Highlands Geopark’s vision is for the region to become “a thriving and sustainable rural economy capitalising on the assets and people of the Geopark in partnership with local government, relevant agencies and local businesses”. The North West Highlands Geopark Ltd is a Charity, and all Charities need sound governance.  Our Charity particularly needs the support and interest of the communities it serves, so if you believe in the value of the Geopark, then please come and stand with us as a member!

As a member of the North West Highlands Geopark Ltd, you will be showing potential funders that you value the Geopark and the work of the Charity. You will also be able to nominate and elect people to serve as directors, or even serve yourself if this is where your interests lie.

Become a member

 

Join our Rock Stop team!

We are currently recruiting for our Rock Stop team!

Are you passionate about the North West Highlands, its landscape, and communities? Do you enjoy communicating with visitors and customer service? Would you like to help us run our cafe, shop and exhibition? Then we’d love to hear from you!

We are looking for staff to help support the Rock Stop to the end of the season. We are looking for friendly, enthusiastic, motivated team members to;

  • Welcome customers
  • Provide local information
  • Make and serve light meals & beverages
  • Present our shop well and sell products
  • Keep our visitor centre clean and tidy
  • Ensure visitors know they are in a UNESCO Global Geopark

Full training will be given, cafe experience desirable. Our payrates are in line with the Living Wage Foundation.

About the Rock Stop

The Rock Stop is a Social Enterprise and visitor centre containing an exhibition, café and shop.  It was set up by the North West Highlands Geopark Ltd in 2015 and is located in the heart of the Geopark at Unapool, just south of the Kylesku Bridge.

At the Rock Stop, we give visitors a warm Highland welcome and encourage them to learn more about the region through our modern interactive exhibition and publications.

For more info and to apply, please contact: rockstop@nwhgeopark.com

 

NWHG Bid to Save the Inchnadamph Field Centre

The North West Highlands Geopark has submitted a Stage 1 bid to the Scottish Land Fund for assistance in exploring purchasing Inchnadamph Lodge as a community and geoscience hub.

The current plan is to put together a community buyout that will:

  • Create a venue for community and cultural events, such as music festivals and conferences
  • Enable the field centre to continue to be a vital hub for groups of Earth Science professionals and students
  • Provide an alternative event space for the NWH Geopark, where it can engage with locals and visitors and create a new interpretative focal point

The North West Highlands Geopark is not eligible to take the project to the full community buy-out stage, but the working group is committed to finding or creating the right organisation to do this as quickly as possible.

Next steps:

  1. Commission an independent valuation and building condition survey
  2. Carry out a feasibility study and options appraisal, to generate a robust business plan
  3. Begin a thorough process of consulting with the local community, looking for their support, as well as their ideas, while also talking to potential partners
  4. Identify a suitable organisation to apply for a Stage 2 Scottish Land Fund (SLF) bid
  5. Fundraise to purchase the Lodge (on the basis that majority of money will come from SLF)

Inchnadamph Lodge has been running successfully as a field centre for the past thirty years but is now up for sale. Earlier this year the Geopark became aware of this and formed a small, informal working group which has raised funds from several UK Universities, the Scottish Geology Trust and the Geopark to explore the viability of community ownership for the Lodge.

There is a risk that the Lodge could be lost to the Earth Science community but there is also a fantastic opportunity to bring it into community ownership for Assynt and create new benefits capitalising on its unique value to Earth Science and its place in the UNESCO Global Geopark.

As a Category B building, the Lodge itself is one of the most iconic built landmarks in the parish and has a fascinating cultural history, having been built in 1821 as the ‘Manse of Assynt’ for the minister of the parish. Nearby Kirkton church is owned by Historic Assynt, another local community-led charity.

The working group will now go on to investigate whether the lodge and its associated facilities could become a community and study hub. Such a venue could provide an educational, cultural and research facility which could host a wide range of local and national organisations. The working group believes the current use by university groups could be expanded so that the Centre caters for a wide range of conferences, workshops, concerts and seminars.

The Lodge can host up to 45 people in the main building, in addition to another 8-10 elsewhere. With appropriate phased development the centre could extend its current usage model catering for student groups and tourist accommodation for 6 months to become a year-round hub for outdoor/indoor learning for Highland schools. The group’s vision sees the Lodge as offering a facility which would complement – rather than compete with – existing venues in Assynt, such as Lochinver Village Hall, the Mission, Elphin Hall and Glencanisp Lodge.

The working group believes that the current operating model, which has proven successful for many years, and they envisage as maintained under community control, provides the kind of resilient financial foundation which is crucial to the long-term success of community ownership projects like this. This solid framework then offers the potential for carefully planned expansion of the facilities, operating season and usage profile over the first five to ten years of community ownership.

The building is ideally situated at the heart of the parish to host cultural events which would showcase the rich historical, musical, and linguistic heritage of Assynt.

The North West Highlands Geopark Ltd, the charity that manages UNESCO Global Geopark status for the North West Highlands, is not eligible to apply for stage 2 funding from the Scottish Land Fund. However, the working group plan to either partner with an existing organisation in Assynt whose constitution meets SLF criteria, or establish a new vehicle which would satisfy Stage 2 application requirements.

Assynt resident, Helen O’Keefe, said; “The Lodge would provide an incredible venue for all kinds of educational and cultural events. From local school kids learning about their local environment in the amazing Traligill Glen, to outdoor skills courses using nearby Loch Assynt and Ben More Assynt, to family reunions researching genealogy in the adjacent old Assynt Parish Kirk. With the combination of its central location, affordable accommodation, lots of parking and a large outdoor green area, suitable for marquees or outdoor games there is so much potential here,….it would also be the perfect place for small gatherings and festivals – perhaps it could host the annual folk music concerts that Historic Assynt used to stage in the Kirk, or a successor to the much-missed Elphin Music Festival, or a new festival showcasing the rich Gaelic, oral history, song and poetry heritage of the Assynt area. Assynt is a place of considerable wider cultural importance for all of Scotland, not just northwest Sutherland. The Lodge presents the opportunity to create an amazing educational, cultural and heritage centre for the entire Assynt community, as well as the many visitors from across the globe who also feel like Assynt is a part of them”.

Geopark Chair, Iain Young said; “Inchnadamph lodge is an iconic building that could make a perfect centre for engagement with the local landscape and its history. With the right relationships, partnerships and collaboration, the Lodge could serve as a thriving hub for fieldwork, language classes, workshops, outdoor learning, small conferences and annual summer schools.”

Robert Holdsworth, Professor of Structural Geology at the University of Durham said, “I will always remember the first time that I stayed at Inchnadamph Lodge – the informality of the hostel was so refreshing. This, together with its spectacular views along Loch Assynt and into the surrounding hills, made it the perfect setting for an undergraduate field class. This, I thought, is a place which will inspire generations of students to get into fieldwork and build their future careers, be it in geosciences or other fields. This, I thought, is a place whose impact will stay with the students who come here for the rest of their lives.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

By now thousands of geologists who have studied at UK universities, and many from elsewhere who have been on field trips to the NW Highlands, will have stayed at the Inchnadamph Lodge over the past five decades.

The working group has already begun informal discussions and consultations with Assynt Development Trust, members of the Community Council (we will present our ideas to them at their next meeting on 30 th Sept.) and other Assynt and NW Highlands community and cultural groups.

The North West Highlands Geopark Ltd is the management body for the UNESCO Global Geopark. It is a Charity and a Company Ltd by Guarantee. Directors and staff are rooted in the local community and became involved because they care passionately about the area and want to see it thrive—economically, socially, culturally and environmentally. They want to look after it, and to share its outstanding beauty and heritage with others. The Scottish Geology Trust fund-raising page for this project is:

Campaign Launched to Save Inchnadamph Lodge

For further information and interviews please contact Dr Laura Hamlet – Geopark Manager:
laura@nwhgeopark.com or 01854622754 / 07828894030

Geopark September 2021 Newsletter

Our latest newsletter is out!

We have a busy newsletter this month as we catch up on all the news and stories from over the summer season. This newsletter includes:

  • Rock Stop opening for the 2021 season
  • Our new Ambassador and Supporter Scheme
  • Geoheritage Festival Events
  • Details for upcoming Geotours
  • Introducing new members to the Geopark team
  • Watch the Highlands ‘Geocontroversy’ video containing new images and stunning drone footage of the landscape
  • Updates on our latest projects such as the Clachtoll Ranger hut, new bike racks at Smoo Cave in Durness, new Geopark interactive maps for our website, and more…

Read the Newsletter.